For an amateur golfer, qualifying for a tournament like the Sony Open is far from a gimme, to borrow a golf term.
Last November, Moanalua High School student Shawn Lu bested nearly a dozen other golfers for a shot at teeing off in this year's Sony Open at Waialae Country Club, and yet...
"Nothing that I've played in before could have prepared me for this," Lu said.
For Lu, "this" was a reference to his first appearance in a PGA Tour event, as well as all of the extracurriculars--cameras, banners, crowds--that come with it. The elements made for an atmosphere unlike Lu had ever experienced on a golf course.
"I was really excited, but also really nervous," Lu said. "I really wanted to play well, and I knew I was ready for the course and everything."
With some of the best players on the PGA Tour on-hand for the tournament at Waialae, it would've been easy for an amateur like Lu to get both star-strucked and side-tracked. Teeing off alongside pros like Vijay Singh and Brandt Snedeker can have that sort of effect, especially on young golfers, though Lu said he was largely unaffected.
"They're all really great players, and every time I play with someone that's equally good or better than I am, that's when I play my best," Lu said. "A lot of the pros out there aren't perfect, but they're good at controlling their mistakes."
Lu says the experience of playing alongside Tour professionals did, however, have one unintended consequence.
"Now that I've played with such great golfers, I probably won't be nervous ever again playing in junior golf or college golf, because they're not the best," said Lu.
The lessons Lu learned at Waialae during the Sony Open are sure to impact his collegiate golf career, set to begin this fall at Oregon State. His goal after that, he says, is the same as most other amateurs.
"Just to play on the PGA Tour," said Lu. "Like... On tour the whole year. Not just one tournament. To have my card and stuff. My PGA Tour card."
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